Some books are so “good” that once you put them down, you cannot pick them up again. For certain it’s human nature to put down things that we lose interest in. But what if that book is the story of your life? Will you put it down because it’s not a pleasant read?
In today’s difficult times, with the unemployment rate in the double digits and much of our securities vulnerable, it is easy to fall into despair and fear. In line with the “misery loves company motif,” we have joined in a communal depression. Our quick-fix society finds itself paralyzed in the face of challenges which seem to have no immediate exit strategies. Thus, ironically, a country that lost it’s international manufacturing edge still rates high in manufacturing excuses of why we cant be happy or forge forward in our lives even through very difficult times. “How can I be happy now that I lost my job?” “How can I be happy when the whole country is going to hell?” “How can I be happy my wife dumped me?” “How can I be happy when my best friend has everything and I can hardly afford the rent?”
We continually focus on what we are missing instead of what we have. The decisive question is, do you have gratitude or baditude? Because it is indeed your attitude, nothing else, that will be your happy indicator in life.
The first step to inviting happiness into your life is realizing that not everything has to go your way. You don’t always have to own everything you desire, you don’t have to be the most beautiful, or thinnest, or wisest, or even be the happiest to be happy. In fact, it reminds me of an episode of the Twilight Zone: It was about a man who sinned all his life and when all his sinning came to an abrupt end upon death, an angel comes to escort him to a place that clearly gives semblance to heaven. His every desire is met at a moment’s notice. If he desires a beautiful woman, poof, there she is. If he desires to win at the casino, poof he hits the jackpot. When he desires the finest of caviar, poof, there it appears. Day after day, night after night, all his pleasures are satisfied. Eventually this afterlife of plenty and gluttony gets to him and he pleads with the angel who ushered him to this generous place, “Please I can’t take heaven anymore, get me out of here.” To which the angel responds, “Who, my dear sir, told you that this was heaven?”
This man was actually in hell. And where one would usually equate hell as a place of scarcity, that is not so! The only thing missing in hell is the ability to appreciate what we have. Are you guilty of making your own life here a hell here on earth? If you have a little or a lot, you have nothing if you don’t appreciate it.
Just because things don’t always go our way it is no reason to put down the book of our lives and basically stop writing it until things get better. We cannot walk away from ourselves and fall into depression and start gaining weight and drinking too much and cheating on our spouses as palliatives to our pains. Quit it with the contingency happy plan which dictates if only I had this or that then I’d be happy. Challenges are here to make us stronger, to fortify our faith and our efforts, not to weaken us or send us into despair, or keep us hiding in the dark, in our bathrobes, and courting our pain as if it was some great lover.
This week’s reading in the Old Testament speaks of the Patriarch Abrahams returning from Mount Moriah, where God had sent him to sacrifice his son Isaac. The trauma and suffering Abraham must have endured before God’s angel stayed his hand from striking his son is unimaginable. After passing this great test, Abraham goes home not to rejoice, but to find that his wife, the matriarch Sarah, had died. These were just two among the great travails and tests Abraham had to go through in his life. But biblical scholars teach us that this great father of many nations did not succumb to grief; his mourning was contained. The man did not fall apart but kept an optimistic eye on the future and proceeded to find his son Isaac a wife even though he had just lost his own. Abraham didn’t put down writing the narrative of his life but ensured that his story continued through his son and his seed. He refused to be a slave to grief but rather chose to be the taskmaster of hope.
We don’t need to learn from Abraham that life can be tough. But we can learn to keep on moving and to stop mourning over what was or what will never be again. If two things or thoughts cannot occupy the same place at the same time, then you must choose what you want to fill the vacuum of your life with—happiness or regrets, despair or hope, apathy or action, courage or fear. “I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing, Therefore choose life.”
This week's blog is dedicated to the memory of the 13 killed at FT. Hood, patriots whose chances at happiness were mercilessly murdered.